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For the Tick-List: Canmore’s Scottish Gully, a 100-metre WI2

Found at the Junkyards, it was first climbed in 1975 by two legendary climbers

Canmore is at the centre of some of the best ice climbing in the world. To the west are the climbs in Banff and Jasper National Parks, to the east is Kananaskis Country, to the north is the Ghost River Valley, far south is Waterton area and nearby are dozens of fun climbs.

One of the most popular climbing areas close to town is the Canmore Junkyard, also known as the Junkyards. It’s a collection of curtains and gullies below Grassi Lakes. The approach is 10 minutes, there’s no avalanche hazard and it holds some excellent beginner lines.

The first route climbed at the Junkyards was the Scottish Gully in 1975 by legendary Scottish climbers Bugs McKeith and Dick Howe. It was one of the first ice lines ever climbed in the Rockies. McKeith and Howe are no longer with us, but they were leading alpine, rock and ice climbers back in the 1970s and 1980s.

A Bugs McKeith Rockies ice climbing sketch from the 1970s. Not of Scottish Gully.

The Junkyards are composed of two ice routes: the Scottish Gully and the main flow. The main flow starts to the right of the approach trail and is between 40 and 50 metres long and ranges from WI2 to WI4. The Scottish Gully starts to the left of the approach trail and has one main ice-choked ramp the rises past short bulges.

It can be climbed as one 45-metre pitch or you can continue up two more pitches towards Grassi Lakes. In total, you can climb a non-exposed three-pitch WI2 that offers nice views of the big limestone walls above.

I try to climb this route at least once every winter for a number of reasons: it’s fun, easy, close to town, the scenery and because of the history. If you’re looking for a mellow morning climb, add it to the tick-list.

The Scottish Gully

Get there: Park at Lower Grassi parking. Follow wide trail below hydro lines towards the obvious ice to the south. Pass hydro station and up to climbs. The Scottish Gully starts on the left.
Pitch one: Climb the icy ramp up and left to trees (WI2 45m). Belay off tree.
Pitch two: Walk left and down to the base of a low-angle ramble (WI2 30m). Belay off tree.
Pitch three: Head up the fatter curtain with two “steep” sections to the top (WI2 25m). Belay off tree. Feature photo above.
Descent: Continue right to Grassi Lakes trail and back up left to the lakes and descent trail.

The Scottish Gully’s first pitch  Photo Matt Brooks

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